Son, 18


You know, Helsinki in November is not heaven on Earth. It’s dark most of the day and even when the sun is supposed to get up, you’d never know because you’ll never see it. It’s probably cold, too. And windy. It rains … unless it’s snowing, but these days, it’ll probably rain. Unless it rained yesterday and then it got cold overnight and the sidewalks turned into skating rinks.

Well, you’ve seen it.

And the worst part of it all is that before it gets better, things get worse. The days get even shorter and the weather even colder so that by the 22nd, with another month to go until the winter solstice, you’re just about ready to go into hibernation.

And yet, one of those late November days in Helsinki changed my life, made everything better, and brought sunshine into our life. Mine and Mom’s.

You were born. In the middle of the night, on this day, eighteen years ago.

That day obviously wasn’t about me. I woke up to Mom gently telling me that it was time to go to the hospital. It was early in the morning, and we had been told that there’s no rush, giving birth would take time, so I told her we should eat breakfast first. So we did.

After breakfast, I pulled my rubber boots on and we walked the three, four blocks from our apartment to the hospital, a route we had test walked a few days earlier. In hindsight, it was smart of us to have breakfast before we left because I didn’t get any food at the hospital – in this movie, I was an extra – and whatever the “pasta” dish Mom got was supposed to be, it wasn’t.

Twenty hours later, I was ushered into a small room adjacent to the actual delivery room, and I sat there and watched the nurses take care of Mom, feeling as a spectator in my life. But when they time came, I was there, by her side and witnessed the birth.

About a half hour later, I sat on a stool next to your small bed, and I looked at you, all tiny and slightly yellow, with a small hat covering your small head. And I became Dad right away. Never has there been a prouder customer at a McDonald’s drive-thru window than I was that night as I walked home to get some sleep.

And never has an air traveler boarded a plane as proudly as I did three weeks later when we flew to Stockholm to show you to your Swedish relatives.

I can still feel how much you weighed when I held you in my arms as we walked to the back of the plane. And the feeling of having a slightly heavier kid on my shoulders in a Native American headdress. And the feeling of picking you up from our bed and carrying you to yours.

Don’t worry, I won’t try to pick you up now. Just saying that it’s in my muscle memory, and it’ll stay there.

Hey, remember when you got to be the President at your school’s Independence Day celebration? What about the time we drove 300km early one morning so you’d make it back in time for the Lego Swedish championship? Good times.

And our trip to Oslo? Chateaubriand? Man, you have an expensive taste. And all those trips when you were a part of that comedy show? Me, I was always way back, bursting out of pride. Just like I was when your teacher was praising your English to me and when you kick start your bike at 5am to go to work.

I guess I should confess that even when we have our long discussions and debates about the world, a large part of me is always just proud of how smart and knowledgable you are. (The rest of me is trying to find more facts from Wikipedia).

You are a talented, smart, funny, caring, and witty human being.

There’s nothing you can’t do so choose wisely.

Mom and I will be here, cheering you on.

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